Here's my take as an ex-elder:
I considered myself a caring, thoughtful, concientous, courteous, go-out-of-my-way to help you, kind, and just elder.
BUT: And it's a big but: (I couldn't resist) Everything I did as an elder, how I thought about others, how I looked at problems/sins that came to my attention, how I decided judicial cases, how EVERYTHING was done, was in the context of my "training" as an elder and a witness.
Part of that training involved learning how to look at EVERYTHING they way I was taught, and to submerge my personal feelings about how things should be done. Isn't this also the very same way we as Witnesses learned everything? Elders were/are no different in this respect from non-elder Witnesses, we just put our own feelings aside on many, many more matters. I can recall that the few times I spoke up about things that "didn't look right" to me personally, I was slapped down HARD, and actually convinced myself that my own personal view of things was wrong, I was being too this, or too that if you will. The "system" as I knew it did not encourage such independent thinking very often.
Here's an example of what went on (I'm trying to show how trying to do something different than the "letter" of the law gets slapped down): In our congregation we had a situation where a long-time elder became a widower, and then about 6 months later he had a one-time sexual fling with a woman he had been engaged to before he became a witness (I mention this detail to provide a complete picture)......Well, we on the Judicial Committee felt that as he was totally remoreseful over the incident (alcohol was involved), and we were convinced he was repentant and determined not to repeat the sin, we "reproved" him privately. He wouldn't be an elder any longer, and the congregation would learn of that, but that was as far as we thought it should go. We took into account his long years of faithful service, too as a factor. He was basically a "good" man, who just ran off the rails.....Anyway, when the Circuit Overseer came through YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE his take on the thing: He belittled us, and said we should have reproved him PUBLICLY, to humiliate him and let everyone know that something untoward had occured...sort of a "knock him down a peg" concept.. He made us feel like we had captured Hitler and let him off with a $10 fine. I couldn't begin to understand where this idiot (the CO) was coming from....This was one of the very few times in my 26 yrs plus as an elder that I really got into it with a CO.....where was the mercy, I asked? What about this man's years of faithful service?? Sure, he screwed up (pardon the pun), but what about forgiveness and repentance?? The CO felt that we should have kept him to a higher standard.
How do I personally feel NOW about stuff I did as an elder?? I deeply regret being involved in decisions in some situations, as I look back on it with the hindsight of "opened eyes". But I sure as shootin' didn't see it that way THEN. The most important thing to me at the time, and I think other ex-elders feel the very same way, is "what is the correct view of this situation, in keeping with ALL that we have been taught as elders (including mercy, forgiveness, and kindness) but in keeping with all that has been published about the particular thing".
It has become fashionable around here for some of us to forget that elders (including Circuit Overseers and District Overseers) are all a product of the same rotten system. Yes, it's true that some elders were/are power-hungry jerks, who don't have a shred of common sense, or who are so mentally isolated from "the flock" that they just don't see how unkind and hurtful they are. Yes, some who really get off on "lording over the flock".
But over-all I say it's the system itself that's at fault, mostly. It's the way they've been trained that makes most elders do things exactly the way they think "is right", while submerging any feelings to the contrary.
To be sure, there were/are elders who somehow retained their link to their own, internal, Non-witness affected common sense "unit"....these elders were constantly getting into trouble for using "their heads" instead of the flock book.....they were/are the ones getting called onto the carpet by the "law and order" types who were following the letter of their training.